Aug 17, 2018
Fake news is all the more appealing in uncertain and stressful times, psychologists say
Psychologists say people develop defense mechanisms to deal with an uncertain world early in life, but this also draws people to information that seems to confirm their own beliefs and worldview and ignore reports or opinion that contradicts their perceptions.
This “confirmation bias” helps outlandish theories and reports gain traction on social media. And that, psychologists say, is where fake news comes in.
“At its core is the need for the brain to receive confirming information that harmonizes with an individual’s existing views and beliefs,” said Mark Whitmore, assistant professor of management and information systems at Kent State University’s College of Business Administration.
“In fact, one could say the brain is hard-wired to accept, reject, misremember or distort information based on whether it is viewed as accepting of or threatening to existing beliefs.”
“Children’s learning about make-believe and mastery becomes the basis for more complex forms of self-deception and illusion into adulthood,” Eve Whitmore said. When people are faced with absurd and conflicting messages, her husband added, “It becomes easier to cling to a simple fiction than a complicated reality.”
“Developing a greater degree of skepticism in children, by encouraging them to ask why and to question, diminishes confirmation bias,” Mark Whitmore said. “All of these strategies have substantial research supporting their beneficial effects.” He said humor and satire helps reduce the anxiety associated with this “confirmation bias” and recommends people expose themselves to different viewpoints and avoid the social-media echo chamber...
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